Court frees 3 women arrested in 2011 Jaguar raid-A A +A
Friday, June 20, 2014
THREE women were set free yesterday after being acquitted of human trafficking charges and assured the judge they will already mend their ways.
Jocelyn Hinayon, Mary Jane Seno and Judith Amancio bowed their heads while the decision was read. Amancio clutched a small statue of the Blessed Virgin, while Seno held a prayer book and icon of the Holy Child. Both also wore medallions.
The three wailed after it was announced that Regional Trial Court Branch 20 Judge Bienvenido Saniel Jr. has acquitted them of violating the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act.
Seno then knelt and raised her prayer book. Amancio and Hinayon covered their faces with hand towels while crying.
Judge Saniel took the microphone and told the women: “You change for good.”
“I thank God,” said Amancio later in an interview. “I will change and follow His ways.”
Teary-eyed relatives hugged the three after the promulgation.
The women were charged with violating the Anti-trafficking in Persons Act after their arrest on April 9, 2011 during a raid on Jaguar KTV Bar in Barangay Kasambagan, Cebu City. Seno was allegedly the pimp, Amancio served as the checker, and Hinayon was the cashier.
The raiding team rescued more than a hundred victims. But only six women, aged 24, 19, 18, 31, 16, and 17, executed affidavits against the three.
The alleged bar owner Vinzon Young and two other partners were not caught.
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama revoked the permit and ordered the bar’s closure the following month.
But Saniel, in his decision, said the evidence presented by the prosecution was not enough to convict the three women.
Former International Justice Mission (IJM)-Philippines director Andrey Sawchenko, however, said they will review the decision before making any move.
“I think we are confident that the evidence showed there was human trafficking activity occurring at Jaguar,” he said.
The law punishes any person who “recruits, transports, transfers, harbors, provides, or receives a person by any means, including those done under the pretext of domestic or overseas employment or training or apprenticeship, for the purpose of prostitution, pornography, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery, involuntary servitude or debt bondage.”
During their arraignment, the three women pleaded not guilty. Hinayon eventually gained temporary liberty after her petition for bail was granted.
Slain lawyer Noel Archival was their lawyer when they were on trial. They were assisted yesterday by Atty. Wendell Quiban.
The prosecution claimed Jaguar violated the law for it recruited women for prostitution.
PO3 Napoleon Talingting testified that his team conducted surveillance at the bar on three occasions; they recorded the transactions through a hidden camera.
Before the three women were arrested, Talingting, PO2 Lyman Norefil Arsua and PO1 Nef Nemenzo acted as customers. They were given partners inside a room.
Seno allegedly negotiated with Talingting for the “bar fine” of their partners. The police officer agreed to pay P15,000.
Amancio went inside the room and accepted the money from Talingting. She went out and gave the payment to Hinayon.
It was at this instance that the police officers arrested Amacio, Seno and Hinayon. They also implemented the search warrants.
Two witnesses corroborated the police officers’ testimonies. They confirmed that “bar fine” means the girl is taken out by the customer for sex.
“Business,” on the other hand, means the sexual activity happened inside the room.
Saniel, however, noted in his decision that the three women taken by the police officers inside the room were not even identified nor presented as witnesses.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 21, 2014.